We parents remember it like a vivid nightmare. Our children, though, were not yet born. How can they comprehend? What will we say to them? And, perhaps most importantly, how can understanding the events of September 11, 2001 help them understand the scary things they may see on the news today?
Fifteen years past September 11, 2001, terrorism continues to be a threat to our nation. What can end it? We may not yet know, but reading and understanding have always been necessary to heal the wounds of division and violence. And so, with hope, we bring the next generation with us to the bookshelf.
As always, books are here to help.
This Caldecott Medal-winning picture book evokes the Twin Towers’ peaceful past, when the most dramatic event there was French performer Philippe Petit’s quixotic quest to walk a high-wire strung between the tops of the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Children will delight in the book’s poetic rhythms and gentle suspense. Just as gently, the reader learns that the towers are now gone. “What happened to them?” your child will ask. And you will begin to answer.
When it’s time to talk about the September 11 attacks, and begin the next generation’s tribute to those lost, this picture book is a winning choice. In 2001, the 1931 John J. Harvey had long since retired from active firefighting duty for New York City, first falling into disrepair and later resurrected as a pleasure boat. Now, in the face of terrorist attacks — the details of which are simply but clearly described — the Harvey springs into action once again, fighting the long-burning fires at Ground Zero. A tale of heroism, bravery, and the good that ordinary people (and humble old boats) can do when dark days arrive.
Two South African sisters have prepared thousands of roses for a flower show in New York City, only to be stranded at LaGuardia airport when their plane lands on that terrible morning of September 11. In the aftermath, the women create a moving public memorial from their roses. When tragedy strikes, it’s easy to feel helpless and aimless. This lovely little picture book reminds us to reach out, and that small expressions of tenderness and beauty are healing responses to tragedy and sadness.
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Image courtesy of 911.org